Acting in the courtroom: A qualitative study of the utilization of Keith Johnstone’s status transactions in attorney voir dire training

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This study is an exploratory qualitative study introducing Keith Johnstone’s Status Transactions acting training to attorneys in the West Texas Regional Public Defender’s Office. The researcher examined the effects of that training on their performance during a mock voir dire utilizing the Texas variant of the Colorado Method of voir dire. Voir dire is a process by which prospective jurors are questioned by attorneys, or judges in some states, to determine their suitability to serve on juries. Attorneys participating in the study were led through training sessions by the researcher and then were asked to conduct a mock voir dire. Qualitative data for the study was collected in the form of training logs, analysis of nonverbal behavior during the mock voir dire, and attorney interviews following the voir dire. Findings indicated that attorneys enacted individual nonverbal behavior that they were not consciously aware of including specific communication styles and significant nonverbal alterations during voir dire. Through this data and subject interviews, insights were gained into the need for Status Transactions training and ways in which this training may be more effective in the future with this population.

Johnstone, Nonverbal communication, Courtroom, Lawyers, Acting training